The final football game of the season is upon us as the Cincinnati Bengals head into SoFi Stadium to take on the Los Angeles Rams on their own literal turf in Super Bowl LVI. All playoffs long, the guys have offered up their predictions for every game, and this one will be no different.
Except, well, it’ll be a little different, because one of them has done significantly better than the other, and the other has never met an opportunity to stage a comeback that he wasn’t willing to milk for all it’s worth. This time, the guys will offer up their winners, plus make some picks on a few prop bets for the game.
Without further ado, the picks:
Super Bowl LVI: Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Rams
John: Both teams took an emotional journey to the Super Bowl, but only the Rams were among the teams expected to make a run. Their impressive pass rush is keyed by Aaron Donald, one of the best players in the game. Their must-watch pass attack is captained by Matthew Stafford, a man who is out to redeem a career wasted on a moribund franchise.
The Bengals have a good defense and Joe Burrow, but their depth pales in comparison to the Rams. Look for the Rams to win at home in front of a crowd of people who are more interested in the halftime show than the game.
MVP: Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford over/under 1.5 interceptions: under
Cooper Kupp over/under 107.5 receiving yards: over
Evan McPherson over/under 0.5 total missed field goals: over
Joe: Well, I’ve really put my foot in it this time. Which is an appropriate turn of phrase, considering how I’ve been victimized by some serious turds laid by the Cowboys, Packers, Titans, Buccaneers, and 49ers the last few weeks.
The Rams have all the advantages here: familiarity with the venue, lack of actually having to travel, being the better team…not trivial stuff. But does it matter? The stadium will be scrubbed of any sort of personality, if it even had any to start. The team will surely be in a hotel and traveling to the stadium by bus, just like any other road trip. And, as we’ve all learned throughout these playoffs, it doesn’t matter who the better team has been; it just matters who makes the plays on that given Saturday or Sunday. Or Monday, in L.A.’s case.
I’m thrilled for Matthew Stafford to have the opportunity, in his first season outside of Detroit, to show that he’s as good as everyone thought he was or could be. I’ll say it: a win on Sunday makes him a Hall of Famer.
Cooper Kupp is the best receiver in the NFL right now. Pairing him with Stafford seems unfair to the Bengals defense. But you know what else was unfair to the Bengals defense? Having to face Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill in the AFC Championship Game, and that turned out all right for Cincinnati.
To win that game, the Bengals dropped seven or eight defenders into coverage and denied Mahomes not the time to make decisions, but the options he needed to make plays. I just called him a potential Hall of Famer, but Stafford isn’t Mahomes, and he’s prone to forcing things a bit, so a similar strategy will almost certainly be employed by the Bengals on Sunday.
Will it work? I don’t know; the Rams have had two weeks to figure it out. But I have no choice but to back Joe Brrr and the Bengals if I want to stage the greatest comeback in sports-adjacent history. I think the Bengals can do it, but they’ll need to force some turnovers from Stafford, keep Kupp in check, and not come up short on any prime scoring opportunities.
MVP: Joe Burrow
Matthew Stafford over/under 1.5 interceptions: over
Cooper Kupp over/under 107.5 receiving yards: under
Evan McPherson over/under 0.5 missed field goals: under
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Last Week: Joe: 0-3 (0-1); John: 2-1 (1-0)
Overall: Joe: 6-9 (1-2); John: 10-5 (2-1)